Jefferson Davis Pie

Dates, Pecans and Brown Sugar Under a Meringue Topping


Vintage Piesby Anne Collins is filled with expected recipes like Coconut Cream and Cherry Pie but the entire chapter on Transparent Pies is what caught my attention. Have you heard of or tasted transparent pie, sugar pie, amber pie or vinegar pie? These are simple pies from simpler times and the fact that Anne has documented them is a service to us all. Sure, they exist in books and in grandmother’s recipe boxes, but it is wonderful to have them all in one place, edited for today’s kitchens and alongside the more typical classics. For the record, Transparent Pie contains eggs, sugar and butter in a single pie crust and that’s it! Check out her Stack Pie, too. Another mind blower.

Excerpted with permission.Vintage Pies: Classic American Pies for Today’s Home Bakerby Anne Collins. Published by Countryman Press 2014. Photos by Todd and Lisa Balfour.

Vintage Pies cover

Culinary historians believe that a Missouri slave named Mary Ann invented this pie during the Civil War, when she worked as a cook for a Confederate merchant. It varies from other transparent pies by the addition of a meringue topping.

Jefferson Davis Pie
Makes: 8 to 10 servings
  • 1 partially baked piecrust
  • 6 large dates
  • ½ cup pecans
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • ½ cup salted butter
  • 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ½ cup raisins
  • ¹⁄8 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons granulated sugar
  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F.
  2. Chop the dates and measure out ½ cup. Break the pecans into pieces.
  3. Separate the eggs, placing the yolks in a small bowl, and the whites in a large bowl. Lightly whisk the egg yolks.
  4. In a medium bowl, cream the brown sugar and the butter. Beat in the egg yolks. Add the flour and the spices. Stir in the cream, the dates, the raisins, and the nuts. Pour the filling into the piecrust.
  5. Place the pie in the oven, with a rimmed baking sheet under it in case it bubbles over, and bake it until the filling is set in the middle, about 45 minutes. While the pie is cooling, make the meringue.
  6. Using a clean whisk, whisk the egg whites with the salt until the mixture is stiff. Gradually beat in the granulated sugar until the mixture is glossy and the sugar is dissolved. To determine if the sugar is dissolved, rub a bit of the meringue between your fingers. If it feels gritty, beat it for a minute longer, then test it again.
  7. Spread the meringue evenly over the pie filling, and seal it to the crust. Place the pie in the oven, and bake it for 20 minutes, or until the meringue is delicately browned.


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